Lately I’ve Been Thinking About Cashews …

No, dementia hasn’t set in … but any day now …

I bought a bag of cashews at Target on Friday and I’ve been slowly munching my way through them. By slowly, I mean like 6 a day. I have this thing where most nuts bother me. With the possible exception of almonds, every nut affects … shall we say, to be polite … my digestive tract. My tolerance for things like peanuts and peanut butter is open only to very small doses.

I love cashews, probably because of their sweet and salty nature (although this particular bag isn’t salty enough). But the cashew in and of itself has a nostalgic effect on me. It carries me back to Saturday afternoon shopping with my mom in downtown Tamaqua.

Those Saturdays, weather permitting, meant trips to Scheid’s Department Store, the National Store, maybe Kutcher’s TV and Appliances to make a payment on our television set or pay our cable bill. It meant a long exploration of Moser’s Newsstand, both when it was on Broad Street in its big location and when it was in its little maze-like original store on Swatara Street, near the Citizens’ Fire Company. There I looked at the latest comics (and sneaked a peek at the racy paperback book covers), while my mom bought a copy of Redbook or Ladies’ Home Journal or (shhh!) True Confessions (she evidently liked a little sleaze, too).


Not the Tamaqua Newberry’s that I grew up with, but darn close. Image © Respective Owner

The capper of the trip would be a visit to J. J. Newberry’s, the town’s sole 5- and 10-cent store after Woolworth’s closed. Newberry’s was the Target of its day, a variety store that sold just about everything (except groceries). Clothes, hardware, kitchenware … you name it, they had it, especially an amazing toy department filled with the most outrageous and cheap junk any kid could ever want. I was big on the giant bags of one-color (olive green) toy soldiers that were 99 cents each. I got my fill of Batman toys there in 1966 and 1967, when every kid in the country went bat-shit crazy (pun intended) for a TV show that is bewildering to me now. (I watched this? REALLY?) I remember their high counters with bins filled with toys, and the glass (safety first, kids) dividers they had at each end and in between to separate them. I was barely tall enough to see what was up there. They also had kids’ books and coloring books and of course, Little Golden Books. And oh, yeah … dolls. Yuck.

The end of our weekly Newberry’s foray meant a stop at the lunch counter (or maybe it was a candy counter?) up front for a bag of hot, salted, roasted cashews. They came in a little red and white paper bag, which was warm to the touch, the perfect thing to take outside in the cold winter months and to munch on all the way home. I think they cost a dime or a nickel … I don’t recall. I wasn’t buying. The clerk took a shiny metal scoop and scooped them right into the bag, fresh and hot, a treat for the long walk (every walk is long when you’re ten) home, trudging up the hill from downtown with our packages and home to my dad and older brother immersed in Saturday’s slate of college football on TV.

None of this exists anymore. It’s all gone. The last J. J. Newberry’s closed in 2001 in Portland, Oregon. Maybe I’m remembering this because of the bag of cashews I bought on Friday or maybe I’m remembering it because today is my mom’s birthday. She would have been 96 years old. She died in 1997. Thanks for all the 99-cent toys, the comic books, and oh, yeah … those hot little bags of cashews in Newberry’s. I still remember them all these years later.

One thought on “Lately I’ve Been Thinking About Cashews …

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  1. What I remember most about shopping at J.J. Newberry’s was how mom, me, and my brother David split up and went in three different directions the split second we walked through the front doors (I really don’t recall my father shopping there for anything). Mom went downstairs where they sold thread and fabric, I went to the left wall where all the crayons, colored pencils and coloring books, etc. were, and David — well, you probably met him picking up his monthly bag of olive-green, plastic, army men (as I recall they were all in the army).

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